My name is Alec Baines and I am a Post-baccalaureate Researcher in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of South Florida. I am from the land of gator wrestling and birds so big that they could probably wrestle you, aka Florida, so it was inevitable that I would fall in love with these amazing animals. 

I study the skulls and brains of archosaurs – a group of animals that includes birds and crocodilians, as well as their extinct cousins, the dinosaurs, and pterosaurs. In addition to this research, I am involved in promoting the visibility of queer and disabled scientists (like myself) and wildlife conservation education.

3 Fun Facts About What’s Going On Inside Archosaurs’ Heads

  1. How do we know that birds’ closest living relatives are crocodilians? Two holes in their heads! (As well as other traits that they share.) All archosaurs have a hole in front of their eye sockets called an antorbital fenestra and a hole in their lower jaw called a mandibular fenestra.
  2. Although soft-tissue preservation is rare, fossil brains can occur. The first dinosaur brain fossil was discovered in 2016. It likely belonged to a dinosaur closely related to Iguanodon.
  3. Flying archosaurs have a similar neural advantage when hunting from the sky. Many modern birds of prey and pterosaurs have an enlarged flocculus, a lobe in the brain’s cerebellum involved with gaze holding and visually tracking moving objects. This greater dedication of brain space for the flocculus allowed them to keep a clear visual focus on quick-moving prey while flying.

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Fact 1:
Fact 2: Brasier, Martin D., et al. "Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur." Geological Society, London, Special Publications 448.1 (2017): 383-398.
Fact 3: Witmer, Lawrence M., et al. "Neuroanatomy of flying reptiles and implications for flight, posture and behaviour." Nature 425.6961 (2003): 950-953.

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